Being this far north, I don’t get visitors as often as I would like. So when I heard from a friend at 5 pm yesterday that she was going to be in Stockholm overnight due to a flight cancellation, I was thrilled. Sad for her about her botched travel, of course. But happy that this unexpected change in her plans meant that we would get an evening together.

Seamlessly, Elissa joined in on my plans for the night, meeting up for dinner and then dancing with some of my friends here. We chatted like we had seen each other yesterday and not more than a year ago. On the dance floor, it felt like we were back in university together again, releasing all of our energy after a long night of putting together the campus newspaper.

Then we came back to my place and chatted still more in spite of the fact that she had an early morning international flight to catch the that included several stops before she made it home to Cincinnati. As Elissa so perfectly wrote: #sleepwhenyouredead.

It was a perfectly unexpected night. And that made it somehow just perfect.

Stockholm Reunited and it feels so good: Elissa on the dance floor at the Lemon Bar in Stockholm.



holidays Candles on the table at the office Christmas party on Wednesday. All photos by Sandra Carpenter copyright 2016.



Daylight hours are in short supply this time of year and Stockholm undergoes a big change in personality as a result. Even though sunset is just after 2.30, it’s distinctly more cozy these days.  That’s thanks to all the holiday lights and candles. Christmas lights, stars and candleabras start shining in windows everywhere at the end of November. And real candles appear all over the place too–at the reception desk at work,  the gym, the doctor and in restaurants and bars. It all goes a long way toward keeping me happy this time of year.

Talk to me in February and I will be distinctly less happy about the darkness. But for now, I am content. Plus, there are all the holiday parties, Christmas markets, displays and  julbords to check out (see my article about what it’s like to attend a julbord on Slow Travel Stockholm).

I have been running around, getting lots of work done and Christmas shopping. But I am doing my best to try to stop and enjoy it all as much as I can. Because I do think that Stockholm is rather magical right now. I worked my way through the crowds to see the window displays at NK department store, checked out the skaters at Kungsträdgården, walked the red carpet on Biblioteksgatan, went to a few Christmas markets and have had a few glasses of champagne.

It’s all been quite lovely. I hope it is for you, too.

stockholm Ice skating at Kungsträdgården.


christmas in stockholm One of the holiday windows at NK department store.


christmas in stockholm Holiday moose lights at Sergels torg.


christmas in stockholm The lights and red carpet on Biblioteksgatan.



The snow began falling slowly, gently, but consistently in Stockholm on Monday. It was so perfect that at work, we all said it felt like we were living in a snow globe.

And then buckets of snow began dumping down on Tuesday and it carried on through Wednesday. As we came home from an election night party on Tuesday around 4.30 am, the city noise was muffled, peaceful, and a giant polar fleece blanket covered the streets, cars and landscape.

Over the course of 24 hours or so, we got more than 30 centimeters (one foot) of white, fluffy snow. It was up to my knees. I could not open my balcony door more than a nudge as the snow had formed huge, unmovable drifts there.

On Wednesday, all that snow stopped the buses, left people stranded in their cars for hours on the highways and even closed a few schools. Being the hardy Vikings that they are though, people still rode their bikes through it.

For me, it provided a much-needed distraction from the bitter dialogue of the US election.

Snow makes me happy. It always has, dating back to school days when I would eagerly watch and listen for the list of school closings and delays, then let out a whoop of excitement when we got that beloved snow day off.

After the election was called on Wednesday morning, I turned off the TV at last. I worked at home because I did not feel like talking about the election with everyone after getting only an hour or two of sleep. And I got out for a tramp through the giant snow drifts. Walking around in a winter wool coat and knitted hat, I was immediately coated in the wet, white stuff. I quickly realized I had on the wrong winter clothes—I needed the ski gear on.

And I could not help but think of the Swedish expression: “det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder”– there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing– and how much it applied to me in terms of the bad clothing at that moment. But I stayed out anyway, regularly shaking off the snow like a furry dog. I just needed to be out and doing something, trying to make sense out of election results that I did not understand.

Snowed in. No, that’s not a white hat that I am wearing.


I needed comfort food, so I roasted a chicken for dinner. It was just what I needed. I went back into the office the next day, got hugs from coworkers and began digging out what was bothering me.

Basically, I realized that I really wanted a woman to be elected President. I wanted it to make up for all those years of working in the US when it was assumed that my male coworkers were in charge because they were male. Then when it was determined that yes, I was the boss, the next comment would be: look how cute and young you are. How can you be the boss? And for all those other ways that I was made to feel less in my role because I was a woman.

I wanted a woman in the White House for my young nieces. So that they could know that there are no limits to what they can achieve.

But what I wanted did not happen in this election. Even so, I remain hopeful that it will happen. And I hope that all this anger and passion from this divisive election will be channeled in positive ways. (I have friends and family members who voted for both candidates and I am not looking to start a war here, just digest my own feelings.)

I am still admiring the snow. And in a near perfect winter combination, we had some relief from the endless November gray with brilliant sunshine today. It was truly lovely

Apparently, this was a record-setting snowfall. It was rated as Stockholm’s snowiest November day in 111 years. Swedish forecasters described it as a snökanon– lake-effect snow (when a cold air mass moves over a warmer boyd of water). But we just laughingly called it the snow cannon or snowpocalypse.

Thinking back to my favorite childhood show day activities, I think I just may have to build a snowwoman tomorrow. And maybe bake some chocolate chip cookies too.

Life does go on.




Hornstull's Bodega On Sunday, I wrapped up the weekend with a glass of wine and a good chat with a friend.


When you’ve lived in a city for a while, you inevitably find the places that you return to over and over again. They’re the places in your neighborhood with the good service or the cool vibe or the best drinks. And of course, they are easy to get to. For me, that place is Bodega.

Bodega is the wine bar inside of Tjoget in Hornstull and it’s in the same building as Linje 10, which is another local fave for me. The wine bar is tiny and cozy and on a Sunday evening when the weather had turned into chilly autumn, it was not so busy. So it was the perfect place to catch up with a friend and wrap up the weekend.

The bartenders are always good about asking what you are in the mood for and then having you sample a few sips to make sure you get the glass you want. In between the stories and laughter, we talked to the bartender about life, politics, and music. Meanwhile in the background, our bartender’s iPad play list included everything from Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan to CSNY and Allah Las.

Perhaps inevitably, we ban talking about play lists. Then we got onto the old school topic of mixed tapes. OK,  I’m showing my age here, but mixed tapes were a great thing. Making a mixed tape (or later a CD) for a party or a road trip or a friend or a guy you liked was such an undertaking as it took a lot of time, especially when you recorded from an album! But making one was always a labor of love, of sorts. And while sharing a Spotify play list is a pretty good thing, it doesn’t have that special cache of creating a “handmade” mix.

Just talking about mixtapes made us all want to make one. But none of us have cassette tapes. Or a cassette player. The details got in the way of our creative burst. But not really. On a  Sunday evening, it just felt good to get a little nostalgic on a Sunday with a glass of wine and a friend and a friendly bartender.


midsommar The clouds at 12.17 in the morning.


midsommar It’s 12.39 am, so it is beginning to get lighter.


Even after living in Stockholm for over 11 years, I am still deeply, totally and completely fascinated by the long days of light this time of year. While the official sunrise is at 3.30 in the morning and sunset is after 10, it does not completely get dark the way it does in winter. The sunlight tends to wake me up around 4 am and that’s when I get up, marvel over the amazing fact that it’s light at 4 am, and then put on my eye shades and go back to sleep with a smile.

This time of year, there’s no place that I would rather be. It’s magical, intoxicating  and impossible to resist.

It’s also hard to describe. So instead, check out the photos with the time added. No filters. Just the light. Are you as enchanted as I am?

midsommar The light at 9.08 pm.


10.25 on midsommar. 10.25 on midsommar.


10.30 pm from the front window. 10.30 pm from the front window.



Stockholm The dessert portion of a Swedish smorgasbord at the Grand Hotel. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2016.


OK, I admit it: I’ve been quiet on the blog lately. I could whine and say life’s been too busy, inspiration has been missing or give some other excuse. While all would be true, writing here just hasn’t been a priority of late. But I have been writing  a lot. In addition to all the writing I do for my “day job”, I’ve also done some cool freelance stuff. Click here to read my latest on Scandinavian Traveler. It’s about digital nomads and I really enjoyed writing this one.

Just before that, I did a fun write up about a new wine hotel here in Stockholm for Hotelier International magazine. There’s an actual functioning winery right in the hotel lobby. Of course, they offer wine tastings and special wine menus. It’s an interesting concept. (Let me know if you want to read the article and I can send you a PDF.)

On top of it all, I performed in another six shows of Wild Minds. This time, we were in Berlin and it was a blast. Next stop will be at Stockholm’s prestigious Dramatic theater at the end of August. That will be a lot of fun, I’m sure. There’s also been some travel in the past few months and in addition to Berlin, I went to Copenhagen, London and Bergen, Norway.

I suppose you could say that I’ve been enjoying the smorgasbord of life.

So there’s a lot to get caught up on. But I will play with that smorgasbord idea and tell you about the Swedish classic smörgåsbord that I went to at the Grand Hotel’s Veranda restaurant. This gorgeous hotel dates back to 1874 and it’s one of those places you go for dinner or drinks when you want to lash out. Of course, if you really want to go all out, you can stay there. We’ve only done so once, but it was a lot of fun.

Anyway, the Swedish smörgåsbord is a buffet-style meal of four to six courses that is really just an excuse to eat a lot, sort of like an American thanksgiving. The word smorgasbord has been adapted into English with the same basic meaning. But the Swedish version has a typical line up of food and being Sweden, there is a typical order that you eat it all in.

Keeping with tradition, we began with the herring dishes. We had them with potatoes boiled in dill. Then it was cheese, crisp bread and snaps. And then it was on to gravlax (marinated salmon), smoked salmon and other cold fish dishes. As you might expect, I was stuffed at this point. Nut I managed to have a few of  the salads, egg dishes and cold cuts.

After a long pause, we then sampled the warm dishes. There was more fish, of course, along with meatballs and Janssons frestelse (Jansson’s temptation) which is a casserole-type dish of layers of  potatoes with anchovies, onions and cream. Then there was the amazing dessert buffet to check out. In spite of being full, I did manage to force myself to try several.

When all was said and done, we ate for hours. It was a lot of fun, especially since it was the King’s 70th birthday and visiting royals from around the world were staying at the hotel. We saw a lot of gowns and tiaras! And anyway, it was good food with good friends. What’s not to like?

smorgasbord A sampling of the fish dishes.


smorgasbord More desserts!


grand hotel Cheers! Skål!


Grand Hotel Checking out just one portion of the buffet.




A taste of Norway

March 3, 2016

in Travels

Bergen As an extra treat for our anniversary, Lysverket served us a buckwheat ice cream and cake.


To celebrate our anniversary last week, we went to dinner at Lysverket. The restaurant in located in the KODE 4 art museum in Bergen and specializes in fresh local seafood and produce.

There’s no doubt that this place is cool. The decor is Scandinavian minimalist and the restaurant turns into a club with local DJs and fancy cocktails after the last dinner serving. Plus, Conde Nast Traveler named it as one of the planet’s essential travel destinations in 2014. Chef Christopher Haatuft is originally from Bergen, but worked at Per Se in New York City, among other places, before opening his restaurant. So Lysverket comes well recommended, to say the least.

Since it was a special occasion, we went full out and chose the seven-course menu. (You can also have four courses.) In addition, we were served a selection of dips with bread and blinis, and Bergen soup.

The official first course from the menu was a scallop with beet salad, umeboshi (pickled ume fruits) and herbs. Up next was grilled mussels with crab salad and mussel broth. Then the third course was the langoustine (Norway lobster), flax seeds, red cabbage and pickled blackberries. Out of everything we had had up till this point, this dish was my favorite.

Course four was a celery root that had been cooked for 12 hours in beef tallow and then served with black garlic, shitake mushroom and barley. By this point, we were both feeling full, so we took a digestive pause and had a glass of Marka, Norwegian bitters.

Then we moved on to the fifth course: cod served with pil pil (a Basque sauce of olive oil, garlic and chili), fried sunchoke (Jerusalem artichoke), spinach and tarragon powder. This was also tasty. I could not decide whether it or the mustard-braised pork belly that came next was better. It was served with radicchio rosso and potato. To finish things off, dessert was a dark chocolate mousse with rye and Irish cream. And as an extra touch for our anniversary–as if we could even think about more food–we were given a buckwheat ice cream and cake.

Five hours later, we were finally done. It was a dining tour de force. Overall, the food was amazing and creative. The service was spotty, however. At times the staff was attentive, at times they were missing. In their defense, they were apparently one person short. All in all though, we had a blast and enjoyed sampling that langoustine, in particular.


Lysverket The grilled mussels were served with crab salad. Click on the photo to see it in full. All photos copyright Sandra Carpenter 2016.


Lysverket The langoustine, also known as Norway lobster, was served with red cabbage and pickled blackberries. Delish!


Lysverket The cod was served with a pil pil  sauce, fried sunchoke, spinach and tarragon powder.


Lysverket Dark chocolate mousse with rye and Irish creme.


Lysverket To help digest the meal, we had some Norwegian bitters in between the courses.


Bergen The king crab at the fish market is so fresh, so amazing.

king crab


Hail, snow, sleet, sunshine. Then repeat. Over and over again. That is my best summary of the weather in Bergen, Norway, last weekend. Robert and I went to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary and in spite of the crazy weather that changed every few minutes, we had a blast. Or maybe we had a blast because the weather was so changeable? I can’t really say. It was never boring, that’s for sure.

Given that I live in the relatively flat Stockholm, it was a thrill to see the snow-covered mountains and fjord that surround Bergen. The town itself is quite charming too, and even though it ‘s the second-biggest city in Norway, the population is only 250,000. It has a distinctly different feel from Sweden overall.

I’ve been to Bergen before (Robert actually works there), so I did not feel the need to be a total tourist. Instead, we just kicked back and enjoyed ourselves. We walked a lot and ate well– in particular we had some outstanding seafood. Every cafe in town seems to be able to do a tasty fish soup. We went to a sing-along piano bar and well, sang along, and danced too. And we stayed out way too late both nights.

Bergen Along the waterfront.



Norway Seven mountains surround Bergen. Bergen While it looks like a dusting os snow is on the ground, it’s actually hail.



Stockholm Stadshuset, Stockholm’s city hall.



There’s a new ferry that connects Södermalm with Kungsholmen. I’ve always thought that there needed to be a way to go between  the two islands by boat, so I was happy to take the mini journey between Söder Mälarstrand and Norr Mälarstrand. Today was sunshiny and not too cold, so my friend Zanne and I enjoyed the ride from the front bow of the boat.

The route includes some nice views of some of Stockholm’s more photogenic landmarks, including Stadshuset (city hall) and Riddarholm’s church and it’s fun to see these sites from the water. As we got closer to Kungsholmen, we began hitting ice and the impact noises on the boat were pretty loud and crunchy. Luckily, we did not have a Titanic moment and made it safely.

Since it was a short ride, we went back and forth across again just for the heck of it. If you have an SL card for the Stockholm transport system, you can use it.

Stockholm The new ferry boat. Riddarholmen Looking toward Riddarholmen, one of the oldest parts of Stockholm.


ferry ride Pulling into the Kungsholmstorg stop.


Stockholm The ice view.


Stockholm Looking toward Kungsholmen.


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Cincinnati A “tree” of perfectly formed macarons at Macaron Bar.


Cincinnati Just a few of the macarons we made in our baking class at Macaron Bar. Ours had a few air bubbles, but they were tasty anyway!


I’ve got a new respect for macarons. Wednesday night, I took a three-hour class to learn how to create these cookies and I gotta say, making them is quite the process. But it’s also fun as Macaron Bar makes it easy for you thanks to their big kitchen and hands-on instruction.

Macaron Bar is the only bakery in Cincinnati devoted entirely to French macarons. The bakery has beginning classes in how to make macarons and for Christmas, I surprised my mom with a class for her and I to take together. We got lucky and were the only two in the class, so we got extra personal instruction in how to make these meringue-based pastries filled with ganache.

Our instructor Tabitha started by showing us how to make the meringue. The egg whites needed to be whipped until they formed stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, the almond flour and sugar were sifted and then folded carefully into the egg whites. We had to gently fold the ingredients together until the meringue formed “ribbons” when you lifted it up with the spatula.

Next we scooped the meringue into a pastry bag and piped it onto baking sheets. This was tricky, but fun too–forming the meringue circles was my favorite part of the process. While these dried and then baked, we had a tea break and began making the ganache filling. We scraped the bean out of fresh vanilla and then boiled it with sugar and chocolate to make our fillings–white chocolate, chocolate and caramel. The fillings were also put into pastry bags and then we piped them onto the meringue and put them together to make little sandwiches. To finish, we packed up our macarons into boxes to bring home.

Given how labor intensive the process was, I’m not sure I would take the time to actually make macarons at home. But I really enjoyed the evening at Macaron Bar and can definitely recommend it. Plus, what’s not to love about bringing home a bunch of boxes of freshly made macarons?


Macaron Bar Tabitha demonstrates the peaks that need to form when whipping the meringue.



macaron making The dry ingredients had to be folded into the whipped egg whites very carefully so that we did not deflate the meringue too much.


macaron Checking for the smooth ribbon of batter.


macaron Mom gets the pastry bag of meringue ready to use.


Macaron Bar Piping out the macarons onto a baking sheet


macaron bar Shaking out the air bubbles and settling the meringue.


macaron bar Cutting up the vanilla bean.


macaron bar Boiling the ganache.


macaron bar Pouring out the ganache to cool.


macaron bar The baked macarons.


macaron bar The finished product!